Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 11

It is now a year since I started writing my blog. I felt strong and specific promptings to do a blog for several months before I actually started writing one. I remember my procrastination because I didn't even know how to do a blog and much less about how to set one up. I remember questioning what I would write - and then stressing over every single entry. I remember especially the pressure I felt as 9-11 neared and the need for me to actually start the blog. I still feel confirmations that writing this blog is a "calling" from God, but I do not know why or who is to benefit from my thoughts and writings. Yet, I feel a strong prompting to continue writing, hoping and praying that I am writing the words that Heavenly Father would have me write. I have been wondering for several weeks what I should write about for September 11 this year that I didn't write last year. (See my posts for September 8 and 11, 2009.) I still don't know what I am to write, and so I'm just going to write with the hope that something important will come out of it. Nine years ago on September 11, 2001, our world was turned up-side-down when Islamic extremist terrorists decided that they should fly jet airplanes into our historic landmarks. Two airliners hit the Twin Towers, a third hit the Pentagon, and a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania before it could hit its target. Why did these men think that they had the right to destroy lives and property of Americans? They apparently were following "instructions" from their God - Allah. Now we have members of the Islam religion who want to build an Islamic community center and mosque- in the name of liberty - near the sacred ground where nearly 3000 Americans were killed and their bodies never found. They are apparently following "instructions" from their God on this idea too. We also have a Christian preacher in Florida who says that God is telling him to burn 200 copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islamists, on September 11 as a way to stand up to the Islamists. How can a God who loves His children give such harsh commands? There is a story in the Book of Mormon about a young man by the name of Nephi who had the assignment from the prophet to go with his brothers back to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates - records which contained the writings of the prophets as well as family history. The four brothers traveled nearly two weeks to arrive back in Jerusalem where they decided that they would simply ask their relative Laban to give them the records. Laban didn't like the request and sent his armed guards after the fleeing brothers. After hiding from the guards for awhile, the brothers decided that they would gather the family's wealth and purchase the records. When Laban saw their wealth, he coveted it - and again sent his armed guards to kill the brothers. Again the brothers fled from the armed guards and hid themselves. Some of the brothers wanted to return to the prophet and report, "We tried - but failed." The youngest brother Nephi refused to return without the Brass Plates. He told his brothers, "Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth…." When they arrived at the wall of Jerusalem, Nephi went into the city alone after telling his brothers to wait for him by the wall. Nephi didn't know what he was supposed to do when he arrived at the house of Laban but allowed himself to be "led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." As Nephi neared the home of Laban, he saw a man lying in the street. Upon closer examination of the man, Nephi recognized him to be Laban who was "drunken with wine." As Nephi looked at Laban, he was "constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban." Nephi's immediate reaction was to say, "No way! I've never killed a man, and I don't want to start killing now." The Spirit told Nephi again to kill Laban, but Nephi still refrained even though he knew that Laban had threatened his life and stolen his property. A third time, the command was given. "Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." Even after three different commands to kill Laban, Nephi still hesitated to obey. He began to reason within himself as to why it was necessary for Laban to die in order for Nephi to be obedient to the command to obtain the Brass Plates. Nephi remembered the promise of the Lord that his people would be blessed if they kept the commandments of God, and he realized that they couldn't keep the commandments if they didn't have the words engraven upon the plates. Nephi then understood the importance of obtaining the plates and realized that there was no other way to obtain them. Upon this realization, he "did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword" (1 Nephi 4:18). I believe that this story in the Book of Mormon is a true story. I believe that Nephi actually killed Laban in obedience to commands from God and in an effort to obtain the required records. I know by personal experience that it is a powerful feeling to receive a prompting from God. I too have received promptings to do difficult things, many of which I very much didn't want to do but none of which would break another commandment. The Prophet Joseph Smith said "… I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it" (Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], p 160). Like Joseph Smith, I believe that everyone should be obedient to the commandments of God, but how can we know that the prompting is coming from God and not from the "Dark Side"? The answer comes from scripture. The Lord told Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith, "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2). In Doctrine and Covenants 9:8, the Lord gives more counsel, "… you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." When we must make a decision about something - even whether or not to obey a prompting - we must "study it out" or reason it out in our mind. Does this make sense? Why would God want me to do this act? What are the pros and cons of this behavior? Does this idea conform to what I have already learned? Does it adhere to the teachings that I know to be true? When our mind is clear on the matter, we must then consult our heart. Does it feel right? If both the mind and the heart are saying that it is right, then ask God for confirmation about the decision. If the decision is right, "your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." If the decision is wrong, there shall be "no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong…." (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9). Sometimes we don't receive a definite answer and must go forward in faith. We can be sure that the Lord will not let us go too far wrong without correcting us if we will continue to listen for His counsel. Most of us will never have the thought or feeling that we should murder another person or to fly an airplane into a building, or even to burn sacred books of other people - but all of us are faced with tough decisions that affect our lives or the lives of loved ones. Let us use September 11 - not only in remembrance of an attack on America by hateful men but as a reminder that we must take the tough decisions of our lives to the Lord for confirmation or disapproval. Let us remember that Heavenly Father loves all of his children and wants to bless all of us. Like any loving Parent, He does not want us hurting each other, but He does want us to live together in love and harmony.

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